We’re into the purgatory phase of the off-season.
I mean, it isn’t technically the off-season yet because the post-season is still going on, but the Blue Jays aren’t in the mix and we’ve still got another week or so before anything interesting happens.
Sooooo the most interesting thing from this week was Ross Stripling talking on his podcast, Big Swing Podcast, about his experience getting traded from the Dodgers to the Blue Jays this year. Stripling talks about what it was like to receive the call from L.A.’s general manager, having to drop everything and leave and the added complications of getting across the country during a pandemic, and the impression that he got in his short time with the Blue Jays so far.
It’s a particularly interesting listen because Stripling is coming from arguably the best organization in baseball right now. The Dodgers haven’t gotten over the hump to win a World Series but they’ve won the National League West every year since 2013 and they’ve been a legitimate contender in every season since Stripling was called up in 2016.
He talks about the difference in going from a veteran team that expects to win to a loose, young team and the energy that the Blue Jays carry onto the field with them and also how he sees a successful future for the team based on his experience with the Dodgers.
Here’s an interesting back-and-forth where he talks about landing with the Jays and what that was like…
STRIPLING: I’d been a Dodger since 2012. To meet all the people and get the coaching that I had and … dude, I played with some of the best players, Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Justin Turner. I mean, the list goes on and on.
I’ve been very lucky and fortunate. I’m going to look at my time as a Dodger and I’m going to cherish every minute of it and then at the same time understand that the opportunity ahead is very bright. When I was on the phone with Andrew [Friedman, Dodgers’ GM] he said there wasn’t going to be innings as a starter for me moving forward and basically let me go to a new place where that oppprtunity is better.
I’m thankful for that and thankful for evetything that he did for me, all my teammates, all my coaches, first-class organization all the way. The Dodgers are awesome but the Blue Jays are fun. They’re an up-and-coming team. Don’t sleep on the birds.
HOST: That was one of the first things I remember you telling me when you got settled. You said guys out here are spitting seeds and playing baseball, young guys with no expectations, whereas the Dodgers, kind of spearheaded by Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts, were competing for titles every year. That’s obviously a great thing but it’s also pretty cool to go to a team that’s up-and-coming, where guys are just ripping it and going.
STRIPLING: All these guys came up together. They won a championship in High-A, another one in Double-A, like they;ve won together in the minor leagues and they keep moving up level by level and now they’re all in the big leagues having success. Obviously it was a weird 60-game season but they made the playoffs in this new format in the first season together in the big leagues. The future is bright.
HOST: You’ve met the [Blue Jays] and you’ve seen how well they can play, what do you think the ceiling is for your team now? Maybe even next year or in a three-year term? Do you see this as a team that’s going to be competing deep in the playoffs?
STRIPLING: I think so. The lineup is as talented as any of them across the big leagues. You put another year or two of 600 at-bats under all of their belts and they’re really going to be cruising in high gear. I think the pitching has a lot of talent but that’s probably where — I’m not a GM, but if I was going to go out and spend money as the Blue Jays GM it would probably be on pitching. Our closer Ken Giles is a free agent, we’re going to lose some of the starters that we traded for, so we need some guys who can come in and fill some innings.
But the lineup, man, it’s going to be fun to watch for a long time. Everyone knows about Biggio and Guererro and Bichette but Teoscar Hernandez, Gurriel, there’s some guys in there that people don’t really know that much about because of those three that I mentioned kind of take the attention.
Watching them is fun. They get so fired up. You come from Los Angeles where you show up to the park kind of expecting to win every day, right? When Mookie hits the two-run double to take the run in the eighth you’re like ‘yeah, we knew that was coming, that’s what we do.’ But when Vladimir Guererro hits the two-run homer in the eighth to take the lead the dugout just explodes. It’s just so much fun, so full of energy. Not necessarily expecting to win when you show up to the field and then winning brings out some emotions I haven’t seen in a while.
It was a lot of fun and the future is really bright. You look across the league and which teams have a core, young group like this? You did it the right way, you drafted, you signed, and you brought up guys together through the minor leagues and now they’re in the big leagues and under control for the next five or six years. It’s going to be pretty cool.
Stripling is obviously going to speak positively about his new team but there was an earnest excitement when he talked about what it was like arriving in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse. The fact he feels that positively coming from the Dodgers, a situation where every single year there was an earnest goal of winning the World Series, is a positive sign.
Elsewhere… Earlier this week, Mike Johnston put out an article at Sportsnet which was titled Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette reluctant to switch positions, platoon. The title is, uh, a little disingenuous. Here’s what Bichette had to say about possibly moving from short…
“I would say that I’ve worked really hard at that position and it would be definitely disappointing if I had to move off, but at the same time if there was someone that’s a huge upgrade and could help us win a championship it’s something I wouldn’t get in the way of,” Bichette explained. “I would definitely like to play the same position every day – I don’t think a platoon situation would be great – but I think that any way to make the team better I’m definitely open to.”
Given the headline, I was expecting to open up the article and see Bichette say something like ‘no, I absolutely the fuck do not want to play a different position’ which obviously wasn’t the case.
I think Bo is aware that the team could upgrade at short — hello, Francisco Lindor — and that he would be shoved over to second base if that happened. The bigger issue for him is not jumping around the diamond and playing a bunch of positions, which is reasonable.
Pre-off-season purgatory content, baby!